Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Hyperloop Physics 101 With Elon Musk

An artist's impression of the Hyperloop pod
An artist's impression of the Hyperloop podCourtesy Elon Musk

On Monday afternoon, Elon Musk, chief executive officer of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, unveiled his much anticipated Hyperloop. We’ve published all the details on this super-fast new mode of transportation, along with an interview with Musk. Still, this event offers an opportunity for a little seminar with Elon Musk, physicist. For those of you ready to geek out and then some, here’s Musk—University of Pennsylvania physics undergrad, Stanford applied physics materials science PhD-dropout, and SpaceX rocket designer explaining some of the fundamental properties of the Hyperloop.

Tell us about the basics of the design. You have pods, with skis on the bottom, zipping through tunnels put under low pressure. Why did you pick this design?
The pods will ride on air bearings. The pod produces air, and it’s pumped out of little holes on these skis. This is something that is used quite a bit in industry. You can move huge, heavy objects with very low friction, using air bearings. In the consumer sense, people would be familiar with air hockey tables, except in this case the air bearings are being generated by the pod itself, as opposed to the tube.